NHMRC requires Administering Institutions to have policies in place to support gender equality in health and medical research. 

NHMRC’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 aims to achieve a gender-equal health and medical research workforce by supporting an increase in the retention and progression of women. Its vision is that all researchers have equal opportunity to participate in NHMRC funding schemes and are supported to reach their full potential. Strategies are required to achieve these goals. Accordingly, NHMRC requires the policies of Administering Institutions to include the following elements:

  1. An institutional strategy that addresses the underrepresentation of women in senior positions in relevant strategic/corporate/diversity plans. This strategy should be reviewed frequently to ensure that it is effective and relevant. 
  2. Strategies for leadership development for women, including sponsorship, mentoring and training. 
  3. The provision of employer-funded primary carers leave for parents, as well as transitional support to encourage return to work.
  4. Flexible working arrangements that cater for individuals with caring responsibilities. 
  5. Remuneration equity for equal or comparable responsibilities.
  6. Employment strategies that encourage the recruitment, retention and progression of women in health and medical research.
  7. Strategies to address the need for the provision of support for childcare.
  8. Policies, procedures and training in place to support research environments that are free from bias, discrimination and sexual or other harassment and procedures in place to fairly address any instances of such behaviour.

A PDF version of these requirements is available at the ‘download’ button at the bottom of this page.

Background

Requirements for Administering Institutions to address the underrepresentation of women at senior levels in health and medical research in Australia were first introduced by NHMRC in 2015. These requirements are now listed here, and are referenced in the NHMRC Administering Institution Status Application Form.

The wording of the requirements has been updated, to use contemporary language and to reflect NHMRC’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021. In line with this strategy, an additional requirement for Administering Institutions to support research environments that are free from bias, discrimination and sexual or other harassment has been added.

NHMRC acknowledges that institutions vary in size and capacity to fully implement some gender equality requirements and that ‘one size does not fit all’ for gender equality policies.

Administering Institutions have participated in two reviews by NHMRC of how institutions are meeting these requirements. The first of these took place in 2015 and data for a more recent review was collected in late 2018 and early 2019, and is currently being analysed.

Outcomes of NHMRC’s 2015 review of Administering Institutions’ gender equity policies

In late 2015, NHMRC wrote to Administering Institutions asking that they provide a submission that addressed the original seven requirements. These requirements were:

  1. An institutional strategy that addresses the underrepresentation of women in senior positons in relevant strategic/corporate plans. This strategy should be reviewed frequently to ensure that it is effective and relevant.
  2. Mentoring and skills training strategies that promote and seek to increase women’s participation.
  3. The provision of parental/maternity leave and carers leave, and transitional support to encourage return to work.
  4. Working arrangements that cater for individuals with caring responsibilities.
  5. Remuneration equity between men and women with the same responsibilities.
  6. Employment strategies that encourage the recruitment, retention and progression of women in health and medical research.
  7. Strategies to address the need for the provision of support for childcare.

Responses were received from 100% of Administering Institutions. The number of requirements met by Administering Institutions was encouraging with 83% meeting six or seven requirements in early 2018.  Results are displayed in Table 1.

Table 1: NHMRC’s gender equity policy requirement outcomes

Result Category

Number of requirements met

Number of administering institutions in this category

Poor

0-1

0 (0%)

Needs Development

2-3

0 (0%)

Fair-Good

4-5

14 (17%)

Very Good-Excellent

6-7

68 (83%)

Better practice examples

From the submissions, NHMRC has compiled a sample of better practice examples of policies currently being employed by institutions. The Athena SWAN pilot was frequently mentioned in submissions and a number of the better practice examples listed in the link below were implemented by Administering Institutions participating in the Athena SWAN pilot. The examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, with many Administering Institutions describing innovative strategies.